THE involvement of the Federation of African Public Relations Associations (FAPRA) in the global communication summit on Building a Corruption-Free Society: The Challenges of Communication held late last month in Abuja, Nigeria, manifested in two major areas. 

The continental organization for public relations did not only collaborate with the summit’s facilitator, Timex Communications Limited, the Abuja show created a platform to canvass support for the body’s flagship programme, All Africa Public Relations Conference, whose 21st edition will be hosted next month in Kumasi, Ghana.

The remark of FAPRA President, Joseph Emmanuel Allotey-Pappoe at the opening ceremony of the Summit on February 25, 2008, was loud and clear. “With this summit,” Allotey-Pappoe said, “communication experts in Africa are not only taken the destiny of their fatherland into their hands, but we have boldly begun a communication process of turning around the image of our continent. But I can assure you that the campaign will not end here in Abuja, PR experts will take the issues forward at the FAPRA forthcoming conference in Kumasi, Ghana. This is the time to do it. And we are to do it by ourselves. I therefore look forward to welcome you, on April 28, to Kumasi.”

Ironically, the 17th edition of the yearly conference was hosted in Abuja in 2004. Ghana had hosted it in 2003. And less than a month before Kumasi outing, the stage appears set for the continental gathering of communication experts from all over the world.

The General Secretary of FAPRA, Mr. Wole Adamolekun in a conversation with The Guardian expressed satisfaction that “preparations are going on well with all hands on deck in Ghana’s Institute of Public Relations and at the FAPRA Secretariat.”

But how continental is FAPRA if a member-country like Ghana could host the conference twice within five years? And there are more than 50 countries in Africa that are supposed to belong to the PR body. “FAPRA is truly a continental organisation for public relations,” Adamolekun insisted.

He explained, “Of course yes. Since inception in 1975, there have been 20 FAPRA conferences in ten different countries. Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria have hosted four times each; Zimbabwe, Uganda and Cote D’Ivoire have hosted twice each. South Africa and Senegal have hosted once each. Participation at the conferences has always been very representative of the five African regions and there are occasions when there are over fifteen countries in attendance. FAPRA shares the language, cultural diversity, developmental challenges that most African countries have been experiencing since independence.”

Adamolekun, who is also General Manager (Corporate Services), Petroleum Products Price Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), vouched for the commitment of other African nations to the association. “They are committed except that many are yet to join the fold. The association is tackling this by reaching out to them and informing them of our programmes.

“For example, we have encouraging response from Cameroun, Zambia and Libya in recent times. With the new policy of admitting individual membership, things will continue to improve.”

And in order to ensure that FAPRA live up to its name as Federation of African Public Relations Associations, Adamolekun revealed that several strategies for membership drive had been adopted.

One of these is “individual membership strategy adopted at the 2007 Kampala conference as a way building up membership in those countries that do not presently have national associations.

“It is only through encouraging individual practitioners to come together that we can begin to have the broad based and better representative membership across Africa. In addition to the individual members, there are associate, senior, corporate and student member grades. Notwithstanding the admission of individual members, FAPRA is irrevocably committed to the development, growth and sustainability of public relations national associations in the continent.

“Other strategies adopted in Kampala including ensuring translation facilities during conferences, active engagement of public relations practitioners in the north, central and Francophone countries. Member benefits in terms of professional training and continuous education through publication would also be pursued.”

He scored FAPRA high on its contribution to appreciation of PR by public and private concerns in the continent in the last five years.

He however expressed the belief that “as more African countries commit to democratic governance, freedom of association and information and fight corruption, there would be increased need for public relations.

“In the past five years, FAPRA has organised continental conferences dwelling on critical issues of reputation management, good governance, African business potentials, diversity communication and now social responsibility.

“In addition, FAPRA has also partnered with member groups on anti-corruption and public relations challenges workshops, seminars and conferences. FAPRA in carrying out these programmes, creates awareness and publicise the outcomes and communiqu?s so that those concerned may act on them. In Kumasi, a compilation of the papers presented in the past five years would be presented to members for reference and professional education.”

The theme of the conference in Kumasi, Corporate Social Responsibility – Global Trends and PR Implications, according to him, is premised on the understanding that Corporate Social Responsibility is a sine qua non activity for business.

He explained further: “It has attained high-level profile in United Kingdom, Europe and America. In fact, there is a Minister of Social Responsibility in United Kingdom while the European Union recently published a Green Paper on the subject and declared 2005 as the European Year of CSR. Here in Africa, only a few multinational and big national companies in oil and gas, telecommunications, manufacturing, banking are presently engaged in the practice at different levels of performance.

“While many of these companies are engaged in outright marketing and sometimes traditional philanthropy, very few are actually following the tenets of corporate social responsibility.

“For us at FAPRA, we are convinced that there is a role for us to play in properly creating awareness and encouraging best CSR practices. The conference is intended to make the public relations practitioners who are the active agents of CSR in their various organisations to be well equipped with needed information and comparative studies that will facilitate their work.”

He clarified the concern that focus on CSR, especially in Africa, where provision of public utility is gradually being linked to CSR, may rubberstamp ineffective leadership and bad governance the continent has been experiencing.

“The intention is not to confuse the role of government as distinct from business organisations. If however the ultimate goal of CSR is to ensure that the citizenry have access to better living standards through business complementing government efforts, then it may be a good starting point.

“In a situation in which most countries in the continent suffer extreme conditions of poverty, poor healthcare systems, low income, lack of infrastructural facilities, aggravated youth unemployment and endemic corruption, the business community would be courting future troubles if these issues are not addressed vigorously. Why did the Nigerian government create OMPADEC and now NDDC? It is simply a recognition of the failure of the various levels of government to deliver on the basic necessities of life for its citizenry.

“With CSR mandatory transparent social reporting and the various evaluation mechanism that its correct practices involves, it is expected that CSR would be strengthened to play its part while the citizenry, media, pressure groups insist that government get more committed to performing their constitutional duties of providing for the people.”

He debunked the erroneous belief in certain quarters that CSR is tantamount to justification for the transfer of public ownership to private hands with its dire consequences on the already impoverished masses.

“If the question is on how CSR relates to issue of globalization, deregulation and privatization, African countries cannot be an island unto itself. As it is indicated earlier, governments all over Africa, except in a few cases, continue to pretend they have solutions to all problems and adopt incongruous systems of governance that are either not in their constitution or are patiently archaic and self serving.

“The result is that while it is obvious that government should have no business running enterprises but create the enabling environment for business to thrive, available facts show their unwillingness to let go and the results continue to show the inappropriateness of this infamous choice. It is not in the interest of the masses for government to waste resources achieving very little when private capital and proven managerial ability could achieve better results.”

He promised that some sessions of the conference would be devoted to good governance and its relationship with CSR.

As FAPRA transforms to have a more membership base of public relations practitioners in the continent, emphasis, according to Adamolekun, will be on professional training of members through workshops and seminars.

“Research publications and conference proceedings would now be published regularly. In addition to this, the association would intensify its partnership and networking with various governments and African Union organs (NEPAD, APRM…) in relation to public relations, specific communication projects such that they can benefit from the expertise of our members. FAPRA has also been able to link up its members with groups and organisation requiring their services. Before the end of 2008, the first edition of members directory would be published to further broaden this service.”

The challenges the association has, he said, “are the usual non-payment of dues by members (all grades), non-participation by some regions, unwillingness of African governments and even African Union to engage professionals to work for them. The Executive Council is taken the challenges in its stride as it creatively pursues the aims and objectives of the association confident that success would be achieved in not too distant future.


* Source: The Guardian Newspapers

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